Friday, June 17, 2005

Looking for a Scapegoat

Before I poked fun yesterday at Tom Friedman's latest attempt to fish his journalistic reputation out of the Iraq War toilet, I probably should have paused to consider the significance of his casual slur about liberals who "deep down" want to see Bush fail.

Why? Because it bore such an uncanny resemblance to this poisonous 2003 comment from National Review contributor Stanley Kurtz:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. A nation where the political opposition stands against our foreign policy, and even secretly (and not so secretly) hopes for its failure, cannot reform a region as recalcitrant as the Middle East. (emphasis added)

As I mentioned at the time, Kurtz's version of the stabbed-in-the-back theory eerily echoed the original, as expounded by the leader of an extreme nationalist party in a certain central European country in the grim years following World War I.

I'd mention their names, but I don't want to sound "shrill."

Such talk from the McCarthyist right is predictable, and probably inevitable. Hell, Kurtz was muttering about treason before we even lost the war. But now we're hearing similar, if more subtle, hints from Mr. Globalony himself – second only to the editorial "we" of The New Republic as the official voice of American neoliberalism.

I don’t know why Friedman is flirting with Ann Coulter’s world view. Maybe he’s just nipping back at his critics – who managed to be right about the war even though they aren’t on a first-name basis with every kleptocrat in the Middle East. Or maybe he understands that the sinking of the U.S.S. Mission Accomplished is going to take a hell of a lot of reputations to the bottom with it, and has decided he needs a bigger life raft.

He may be right: Trashing Donald Rumsfeld for his conduct of the war and sucking up to Colin Powell (“Almost every problem we face in Iraq today . . . flows from not having gone into Iraq with the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force . . .”) may not provide enough protection – not when you’re as sprawled across the public record of the last three years as Tom Friedman. You also never know who’s going to end up writing those postwar why-we-lost-in-Iraq books. Hedging his bets – by blaming both the most powerful presidential administration in recent memory and a tiny, marginalized antiwar movement – could be a smart career move.

But what Friedman’s comment really drove home for me is how perilous the postwar political environment is likely to be for the remnants of American liberalism – and for the anti-imperialist left in particular.

This may seem counterintuitive, since the “national greatness” conservatives and their Friedmanesque collaborators have just taken such a spectacular geostrategic belly flop. But if you look back at America’s post-Vietnam experience, you may see my point. After a brief period of ’70s soul searching – a rare example of American glasnost – the silent majority quickly repressed all doubt and buried the memory of defeat under the jingoism and cheap patriotism of “Rambo” Ron Reagan. The antiwar left had been right about Vietnam, practically as well as morally, (Ben Stein can bite me) and was punished for it. (more)

Billmon is right. The NeoCons will be casting about wildly for a scapegoat. And it will be US. Of course the NeoCons will just light out for their private islands and gated compounds like the no-balls little cowardly worms that they are. And we will once again be left with the task of clearing away their pile of shit.

And Ben Stein can bite me as well. No talented Nixon apologist asshole that he is. I invite everyone else to call on Ben to bite them as well.

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